protest delivers a resounding 'No'
protests: Hundreds of thousands of people around the world stage mass
demonstrations against conflict with Iraq
Jo Dillon, James Morrison and
to Alternative Reader Index
united in protest. A builder in Bradford, a Glasgow nurse, a London office
worker and his opposite number in Tokyo, a Vietnam veteran in Washington DC and
a Russian bank clerk, a Pakistani schoolboy, a Cairo shopworker, a Parisian
housewife and a doctor in Damascus. They all came together in a single act of
defiance. Hundreds of thousands of people across the world joined in a common
aim, across cultural divides and language barriers to say "No."
As around 100,000 troops from Britain and America made their way to the Gulf,
their numbers were dwarfed by the ranks of ordinary men and women who took to
the streets in cities around the world to condemn war on Iraq. And the
demonstrators' clear message to their leaders was echoed in a swelling chorus of
generals, defence experts, actors, musicians, writers and artists speaking out
against threatened military action.
Their call may not be heeded but it was loud enough to be heard.
In Washington, American citizens staged the biggest peace demonstration since
the days of the Vietnam war. "I'm a Vietnam veteran," said
David Mastrianni, 55, a software engineer from Southington, Connecticut, who had
travelled down with his wife, Nancy, determined to protect against "another
generation being sent off to war."
Mr. Mastrianni was an easy-going man, not especially haunted by the time he
spent between 1968 and 1969 as a drafted army engineer at Long Binh, outside of
what was then Saigon. He was more haunted, he said, by the idea of allowing a
war to take place without making his protest. It was the first time that either
he or his wife had been to a peace demonstration. "Maybe we have learnt
our lessons, and we have learnt not to believe everything our government tells
us," said Mrs Mastrianni.
There were many protesters like the Mastriannis: peace-demo virgins who for
various reasons felt this was the time to join in, to listen to more than 50
speakers rally against military action and then to join the tens of thousands on
a march to the US Navy Yard in Washington and demand in vain to inspect
America's own weapons of mass destruction.
Never had their message been received by so many people "in the
mainstream," said organisers. "You are talking to the broader
base now," said Susan Riley, a nurse from Minneapolis.
Outside the Permanent Joint Headquarters of the British Armed Forces in
Northwood, north-west London, hundreds gathered to hear the veteran Labor
leftwinger Tony Benn warn of "massive" opposition across
Britain to the prospect of war: 2,000 were in Shannon, Ireland, 2,500 in
Liverpool, 1,500 in Cardiff, 2,000 in Bradford, 250 in Glasgow ...
The protesters were in good company. Sir Michael Quinlan, former permanent
secretary at the Ministry of Defense, this weekend told The
Independent on Sunday that war was "disproportionate."
Major-General Julian Thompson, a senior Falklands veteran, admitted he was "not
persuaded of the case for war at the moment." "I also don't think that
Saddam Hussein is necessarily the right target," he added. And defence
analyst Paul Beaver urged a "second mandate" from the UN
before war was contemplated.
There was outright opposition too from the actress Juliet Stevenson, who
insisted: "This is not our war, and not one we should have got involved
in." The screenwriter Alan Bleasdale said he was "horrified"
at the prospect of war, and Corin Redgrave, the actor, called for civil
disobedience and industrial action. Body Shop founder Anita Roddick said: "Shame
on Bush and Blair for threatening their illegal and immoral war."
Some in the arts world are determined to take further action. The actress Julie
Christie is urging performers to support a public declaration against war. Her "No
War Pledge," already signed by 40 prominent names and organizations,
including the actress Emma Thompson, the comedian Victoria Wood and the
film-maker Mike Leigh, is to be posted in a national newspaper to coincide with
the 27 January deadline for the presentation of the UN weapons inspectors'
The pledge describes war on Iraq as "immoral and contrary to
international law," urges the British government to withhold support
for it and calls on "all who support peace and respect international
law to take a similar stand."
against war: actors writers, warriors, citizens
Beaver, defense analyst
I would like to see a second mandate from the United Nations. I don't want
Britain to squander its position within the Arab and Muslim world by unilateral
action with the US. Another reason against it is that this is a campaign which,
if the country is going to invest in it, will cost us around £1bn.
Douglas Hurd, former foreign secretary
The overthrow of an Arab regime, however odious, by an Anglo-American military
force would seem different [from the 1991 war]. The greatest danger might arise
in the aftermath of a war in a region that would see itself under the domination
of the US, the protector of Israel.
Sir Michael Quinlan, former permanent secretary at the Ministry of Defense
If we are talking about war, I think it is disproportionate. It is an enormous
thing to start a war with all the direct effects and repercussions in the
region. I don't think Saddam, though very nasty internally, is danger enough to
be worth a war.
Alan Davies, actor
Inspectors found a dozen empty warheads under a pile of earth, but it's not
enough to convince me to send anyone to risk their life. I have my doubts about
war because of the issue of oil. The focus on Iraq has less to do with the war
against terrorism than a long-standing grudge held by the Republican Party.
David Hare, playwright
An unsanctioned invasion of Iraq has no legitimacy. Its arbitrariness is an
encouragement to terrorists. I wish an end to dictatorship in Pakistan, Saudi
Arabia, Burma, China, as well as in Iraq. Most of all I wish for a US government
which has the guts to imagine a policy for peace in the Middle East.
Tony Benn, former MP
You cannot take a nation to war unless it is united. There is massive opposition
in Britain: 58 per cent. Bush and Blair are planning to tear up the UN Charter
to make a war which would be a regressive war, to kill people, which would be a
war crime, and to do it in a way which would endanger world peace.
Juliet Stevenson, actor
This is not our war, and not one we should have got involved in. It's a complete
mystery to me why we've allowed ourselves to get drawn in. I don't have any
sense of what it's really about. It's certainly not about what they say it is.
We've been hoodwinked and misled.
General Sir Michael Rose
As a commander, I would not want to lead my troops into battle unless I was
totally convinced of its just cause and that all necessary resources had been
made available. So far, this does not seem to be the case. And how will a war
against Iraq impact on the global war against terrorism?
Salman Rushdie, writer
There is a strong case for a "regime change" in Iraq. The
complicating factor is the US's approach which looks like bullying because,
well, it is bullying. If the US reserves the right to attack any country it
doesn't like the look of, then those who don't like the look of the US might
return the compliment.
Field Marshal Lord Bramall, former chief of the Defense Staff
This is a potentially very dangerous situation in which this country might be
swept into a messy and long-lasting Middle East war. All I ask is that this
thing is looked at carefully. We are supposed to be taking a lead on the moral
issues of the world.
Corin Redgrave, actor
It's not only those of us in the arts who are opposed to this – it's the
church, the medical profession, people in public service. We are talking about a
criminal adventure that is going to tear the heart out of British society. To
make their views heard, people should be thinking about acts of civil
Alan Bleasdale, writer
I'm horrified by the prospect of war. It's the wrong war, at the wrong time, and
against the wrong people. I'm bewildered by the state of mankind. The rise of
fundamentalism, and not just Islamic but the kind we see in the West as well, is
the greatest threat to civilisation we've ever experienced.
Major-General Sir Patrick Cordingley, commander in the 1991 Gulf War
I am absolutely opposed to a war. We were absolutely determined [in 1991] that
the war was just, that there was a clear UN resolution and that was to free
Kuwait. The most important thing was that we were aware that the British people
were behind us.
Günter Grass, writer
Once again, the issue is oil. The web of pretense which usually conceals the
interests of the world's last remaining superpower and her chorus of allies has
been worn away to expose the true interests of power. They are revealed in all
their hubris as shameless, a danger to the public interest.
Major-General Julian Thompson, Falklands commander
I am not persuaded of the case for war. We have not had much evidence. My
concern is that the British people won't support the operation unless there is
more proof. I also don't think Saddam is necessarily the right target.
Anita Roddick, Body Shop
Shame on Bush and Blair for threatening their illegal and immoral war. The UN
Charter, which authorizes war in "self-defense if an armed attack
occurs," is like so much dust in the wind against the oil-slicked,
aggressive greed of an arrogant superpower and its shameless British lackeys.
© 2001 Independent Digital (UK)
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